Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I'oi Survey Completed!

The survey of the I'oi (Rarotonga Starling - pronounced "ee-oy") is complete and globally the number of birds is estimated to be around 1,000, all on the island of Rarotonga.
TIS Biodiversity Coordinator, Ana Tiraa says the survey stimulated greater appreciation for the I'oi amongst the community.
"The survey increased awareness of the bird for the 14 people that assisted with the field work and they passed this information on when talking to others about what they were doing," says Tiraa.
"Some of the volunteers didn't have a clue about the I'oi before the survey." she adds. The wider community was also informed about the I'oi through the newspaper and television advertisements to explain the survey and call for volunteers.
The I'oi lives only on the island of Rarotonga in the Cook Islands and nowhere else in the world.
The survey was lead by the Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) and TIS provided volunteers to assist with the field work.
The number of birds seen and heard were recorded from a number of mountain ridges around the island.
"This survey was a good partnership arrangement between the Natural Heritage Trust and Te Ipukarea Society," says Gerald McCormack of NHT.
University of Leeds student Carly Easby, working under the direction of McCormack will be completing a thesis on the study. Capacity assistance from the AAGE V. Jensen Foundation made it possible to hire Tiraa as coordinator of the volunteers. The Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF), through Birdlife International (Pacific) provided funds for the hire of volunteers and the Darwin Initiative funded advertisements for volunteers. The photo for this story was provided courtesy of the Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Water Sensitive Urban Design

This is a concept that arose during Lagoon Day which is about designing urban environments so that they are more closely matched to the original water cycle that existed prior to settlement. The concept is being promoted in the city of Brisbane, Australia. It should be much easier to adopt this concept in Rarotonga where the population is much smaller and development is less advanced. The concept is based on the principle that the construction of roads and buildings causes rain water to accumulate in one area causing floods. This rain water would normally be taken up by plants/trees and transpired into the atmosphere or it would sink into the ground to become groundwater which eventually moves to streams and (in our case) the coral lagoon.

The concrete and asphalt on footpaths and roads prevents this water from filtering through the ground and creates storm water drainage problems as well as flooding.

While the natural reaction might be to build larger storm water drains, this only creates a new problem – the drainage of polluted and unfiltered storm water directly to our sensitive coastal coral reef environment. In Brisbane, the concept of Water Sensitive Urban Design has been promoted because of concerns about the deterioration of Brisbane’s coastal marine environment. Ways to protect the coastal marine environment and mimic as closely as possible the original water cycle include maximizing water efficiency (recycling water, saving wetlands), installing rain water tanks (which also reduces demand on the reticulated water supply), restoring streamside vegetation, installing rain-gardens (to receive excess storm water from roof tops and roads) and building car parks, driveways and footpaths from porous materials.

Cook Islands Seabird Survey

The Ship Rat threatens bird populations. Photo from the Cook Islands Natural Heritage Database.

As part of the “Conservation in the Cooks: Setting Priorities, Building Capacities” project, Te Ipukarea Society in partnership with the National Environment Service will be doing a seabird survey of the northern group islands in July-September this year. The purpose of the survey is to:

1. Identify seabird species and estimate population sizes (particularly for nesting/roosting species)

2. Identify introduced mammalian threats present (The focus is on those species that threaten seabirds but it would make sense to collect information on other kinds of threats where possible particularly ants)

3. Assess the feasibility (technically and socially) to eradicate mammalian threats

4. Record sightings of species and numbers of seabirds at sea

5. Provide the results of the work to communities in the Pa Enua Tokerau (northern islands).

6. Document survey results, management needs and priorities

Red Cross has been very helpful by providing their network to make contact with those in the northern group islands to give them notice of our arrival. The survey is being funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF) and it is coordinated by our new Biodiversity Coordinator, Ana Tiraa.

Radio New Zealand Interview

Te Ipukarea Society was recently interviewed by Radio New Zealand about the 2011 Rarotonga Water Quality Report Card. TIS is a known contact to Radio New Zealand for supplying comment on Cook Islands development issues from an environmental NGO perspective. The Report Card provides the results of coastal coral lagoon water quality monitoring on Rarotonga for the previous year and is produced by the Cook Islands Ministry of Marine Resources with peer review by NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmosphere in New Zealand). Our comment to Radio New Zealand is that while bacteria levels in the lagoon are measured to be low and the lagoon is safe for swimming, this is no reason to be complacent. “Results show that nutrient levels (that is nitrate and phosphate) are too high for healthy coral reefs,” says Jacqui. “This means we can’t be complacent and must work towards improving wastewater management on land particularly for livestock farming and visitor accommodation, before results begin showing the worst,” says Jacqui.

CEPF Mid-Term Review Meeting

The donor panel set up for the fundraising learning activity. From left to right is Claudia Sobrevilla (World Bank), Greg Sherley (United Nations Environment Programme) and Valerie Hickey (World Bank).

Our Programme Manager, Jacqui Evans attended the mid-term review of the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund in Lami, Fiji from 6-8 June. The purpose of the meeting was to identify areas where the funding programme might improve, to receive some training in fundraising and communications and to identify next steps.

“A useful activity during the workshop was the development of a project proposal and presentation of the proposal to a real donor panel,” says Jacqui.

“The donor panel gave same really good feedback about what to include and what not to include in project proposals when fundraising,” says Jacqui.

CEPF is a joint initiative of l’Agence Francaise de Developpement, Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. The focus of CEPF is the conservation of threatened species and other globally important species.

Important Bird Areas and Key Biodiversity Areas

One of the main products of the “Conservation in the Cooks: Setting Priorities, Building Capacities project” will be a directory of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) and Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) in the Cook Islands. IBAs and KBAs mark the places on earth that have global importance for conservation. IBAs and KBAs must meet one or more of the following criteria:

  1. They contain threatened species listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable.
  2. They contain species that have a restricted range e.g. endemic species that are found only in that geographic location and nowhere else in the world.
  3. They contain globally significant congregations of species e.g. a large proportion (1%) of the global population of
  4. They contain a large proportion of a group of species restricted to a particular biome or subdivision of it (a biome is any major regional biological community such as that of a forest or desert)

    Already, the draft IBA/KBA directory shows that many of our islands comply with at least one of these criteria. Suwarrow has globally important populations of Sooty Tern, Red-Tailed Tropic Bird and Lesser Frigatebird.

    Atiu has an endemic swiftlet, the kopeka, and species endemic to the Cook Islands such as the Rarotonga Flycatcher, the Cook Islands Fruit Dove and the Ngaputoru Pandanus. Recently, the Rimatara Lorikeet (Kura) was reintroduced to Atiu. These species make these places globally important sites of biodiversity. By identifying them as IBAs or KBAs, they will become global priorities for conservation. This identification process is helped substantially by the Cook Islands Natural Heritage database and with funding from the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF) obtained with the help of Birdlife International. The project also supports the employment of our Programme Manager and builds capacity of Te Ipukarea Society through training, organizational planning, part-time field assistants, and expenses incurred through awareness-raising. We are eternally grateful for the assistance that CEPF has provided us.

Annual General Meeting

Our Annual General Meeting for the Society on 29th June saw the re-election of our executive: Patron Karika Ariki Margaret Karika, President Ian karika, Vice President Andy Olah and Secretary/Treasurer, Jolene Bosanquet. New committee members are Elina Rocka, Teina McKenzie and Carina Langsford. Previous committee members re-elected to the committee are Teresa Framhein, Kelvin Passfield, Tamara Suchdolsky, and Peter Heays.

President Karika says “Together with Programme Manager Jacqui Evans and Biodiversity Coordinator Ana Tiraa the committee makes a very strong and dedicated team with a wealth of expertise in a variety of environmental areas.”

Congratulations to the new executive committee and welcome to our new committee members.

Deep Sea Mining

The Cook Islands now has a Seabed Minerals Act. A copy is available at the office. Deep sea mining is for minerals, oil and gas, and like our fish resources, the Pacific is seen as fair game.
Submissions presented have not been incorporated in the revised document. It is still basically a document that gives the opportunity for overseas companies to buy mining licenses and on-sell them – called futures trading. Cook Islanders will not benefit financially except via license fees paid to the Government. The Ministry of Marine Resources is responsible for ocean but the Act comes under the Ministry of Finance. There is to be a regional meeting in Fiji, to map out the future of ocean mineral mining which is a potentially lucrative industry for the Pacific. A rep
from the Cook islands MMR will attend. Maureen Penjueli, Coordinator of the Fiji based Pacific Network on Globalisation says that ecosystems need to be mapped out to ascertain the effects when mining takes place. Therefore its not just TIS that is concerned, it’s a Pacific wide concern and we need to network with our counterparts and contain with our public awareness campaign.

Water Quality Report Card 2011

Most of you will have read this report in the CI News. The results tell us that we need our
individual and collective action to prevent nutrients reaching the lagoon. We can do it. We
have to do it. The health of the lagoon depends on our action, not next year but now. TIS will
compile a list of things we can do to live the sustainable life. The rest is up to us – households,
businesses, growers, tourism operators, farmers - to act more environmentally responsibly and in many cases in changing habits of a lifetime rather than blindly acting as we have always done. We are now living a western lifestyle, yet we live on islands with limited resources. . Whilst we can’t
change the world, we can change our personal attitudes and save our tiny pacific paradise thereby helping Mother Earth. Ni seconda! There is no second choice of a planet on which to live.

Activities for May

Full list in PM’s monthly report.
Highlights include….
 The IBA/KBA Directory is now an
impressive 22 pages long
 Compiled the Quarterly report for CEPF
which includes audited accounts.
 Meeting with David Shepherd (Director of
 Met with Vaine Wichman (Training Needs
Assessment) on HR in Cooks
 Attended Quarterly Conservation in the
Cooks Project Steering Group Meeting.
 Attended AGM of CICAN
 Appraisal of Climate Change Adaptation
projects in Outer Islands (SRIC)
 Recruitment committee decided on
Biodiversity Co-ordinator
 TIS initiated meeting with Ben Ponia
(MMR) re Purse Seine fishing
 GEF-PAS Invasive Species Inception
 Presentation to Te Uki Ou School on
 Attended Initial meeting of E-Waste
Programme for 2011
 National Water Outlook water group
meeting attended by Ian Karika

IUCN Membership

The Executive of TIS is very proud to announce that we have been accepted as a member of the
prestigious international conservation organisation IUCN (International Union for the
Conservation of Nature). Membership is earnt not given to all who apply. TIS has had an ongoing
association with IUCN specifically in regard to Suwarrow. IUCN categorises important
conservation areas in the world and its work is internationally respected. To be part of IUCN is a
feather in our cap & raises the profile of our homegrown NGO. Thanks to Kelvin Passfield for
assisting with advice on applying for this membership. TIS has been an Affiliate member of BLI(Birdlife International) for a number of years through the work of Ian and Ana.

CEPF Mid-Term Review Meeting

A mid-term review of the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF) is occurring in Lami, Fiji
6-8 June. TIS Programme Manager, Jacqui Evans, will attend this meeting to identify areas where
the administration of the fund could improve and also to receive some fundraising training. The
meeting is also an opportunity to network with other NGO’s in the Pacific and share solutions to
common challenges we all face. TIS is grateful to CEPF for supporting the bird conservation work
and capacity building of TIS during 2010-2012.

Te Ki O To Tatou Moana ei Angai Rai ia Tatou Our Ocean of Fish is for the Sustenance and Nourishment of Our People

After an interesting meeting with the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) in which TIS had the
opportunity to raise a number of questions, it was decided to circulate to the members for comments an information paper on the contentious fishing proposals which will affect all
Cook Islanders. This will be distributed in July. Then with your support we will take appropriate


We are currently seeking clarification if EIA’s (Environmental Impact Assessments) have been
submitted to NES for the Hotel at Vaimaanga & the Arorangi Jetty project. Any major development such as these, whether Government or Private Sector needs to have EIA’s
approved. An EIA sets out clearly the Project, the specifications, time frame, benefits & challenges and approval is either granted or denied by the Rarotonga Environment Authority. It’s not just about whether the project could be detrimental to the environment. The cultural, community and human resources aspects also need addressing. For example who is going to staff the Vaimaanga Hotel?. Not Cook Islanders that’s for sure as already overseas workers are employed at hotels on Rarotonga due to the lack of locals available. The current prospective developers want the road put around the back of the hotel. If Government agrees to this then a precedent has been set and those tourism properties that exist on both sides of the road will surely apply for the same concession eg The Rarotongan, Palm Grove, Pacific Resort, Sea Change and others. TIS has always been a “watchdog” on sustainable development. We are hopeful that the new Minister for the Environment who also is the Prime Minister, Hon Henry Puna, will promote sustainable development as part of his goal to ensure the Cooks are “green”, rather than be influenced by the big bucks. TIS representatives will meet with the PM to offer
assistance from TIS to help achieve his admirable goal.

Operation I'oi

I’oi is a medium sized bird (about 21cm), slightly smaller than the Myna. The colour of the adult is dull dark grey-brown with a pale belly and white feathers under the tail, and yellow eyes. Unlike the adult, young I’oi have brown eyes and no white feathering under the tail. A bird count
programme is underway to determine numbers on Rarotonga and TIS is inviting senior school
students to participate in this interesting project. If you know of 14-18yr olds in the Cook Islands who would like to be part of this project please phone Ana on 21144 or email aetiraa@gmail.com

EnviromentWeek focuses onWetlands Enua Mou E Vai Ora –Wetlands for Healthy Islands

Congratulations to NES for co-ordinating a very successful Environment Week 30 May-02 June.
This year incorporated artwork & performing arts items by school students, a Quiz Challenge and the popular Lagoon Days with lots of media coverage. June & Andrew Hosking, wonderful
examples of “living” the sustainable life focused on their composting loo at home in Mauke.
Lagoon cruises & a visit to the last habitat of the native Red Fiddler Crab at Aroko, as well as
informative booths provided the public and school children with a wonderful educational
exposay. Thanks to Tamara Suchodolsky & Teresa Framhein for being the TIS co-ordinators, attending pre-meetings and together with Ana & Jolene Bosanquet manned the TIS booth on the two Lagoon Days. The focus was on the “fauna” of the wetlands. presentations. Thanks to CI Natural Heritage for the photos for the display. The message is loud and clear, whether we live on the coast, on the back road or further inland we are ALL responsible for the health of our lagoon.

Biodiversity Coordinator Recruited

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Ana Tiraa as our Biodiversity Coordinator.
Ana is a founding member of TIS, has always been a strong supporter of the organization giving
advice and assistance over the years from near and afar. She is a well respected conservationist both
locally and internationally with her main area of focus being natural resources management. She
has had comprehensive experience in bird conservation particularly with the Kakerori (Rarotonga Flycatcher) and the I’oi (Rarotonga Starling). It’s wonderful to have her “home” again and already two weeks into the job she’s achieved heaps and is a great support for Jacqui Evans. Her employment has been made possible with support from the AAGE. V. Jensen Charity Foundation.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Waste Management

Great to see the recyclables being collected on our kerbside and kept separate from the general waste truck. MOIP are really on to it. Monthly meetings being held and good news that e-waste will be included in the long term strategies. However waste management starts with RETHINK the strategies. REDUCE what you buy, REUSE what you can and RECYCLE as much as possible. As TIS members we have to be the examples. A workshop for members will happen soon.

Cook Islands Greenest Nation in the World

That’s the vision of our Prime Minister, Hon. Henry Puna, who is also the Minister for the
Environment. Way to go Henry. Its up to TIS to support the Minister in his lofty vision and
make it happen. To this end our President Ian Karika and our Project Manager, Jacqui Evans
will meet with Prime Minister Puna invite him into our vaka and show him the ropes, and together paddle in the same direction for the benefit of the country. Together we can make the vision a sustainable reality.

Lagoon Day

The annual Lagoon Day was held 1st & 2nd June at Ngatangiia Football Field. The
theme was the Importance of Wetlands. The committee of Tamara, Patricia and Teresa
have attended p lanning meetings and are liasing with Gerald McCormack re info on flora and faunain the wetlands, specifically importance of birdlife. The Lagoon Day is an event where all relevant government agencies, NGO's and CBO's set up booths to raise awareness about issues that affect our coastal coral lagoon. Schools are brought in on buses to attend the event and research information to complete a universal questionnaire.
Tamara Suchodolsky (TIS Committee member) and Jolene Bosanquet (TIS Secretary/Treasurer) at the TIS booth of the very first annual Lagoon Day in 2008.

On the beach....

Wayne King, founding President & former Exec member of TIS who co-incidentally
wrote for Greenpeace a report on “Impacts of tuna fishing by distant water fishing nations”
has given his full support to the TIS campaign. Wayne & Anne have rejoined TIS and Wayne
is on our “distant” support list of members.

Marine Ra'ui Revitalised

Jacqui has attended two meetings at the Ministry of Marine Resources in April to discuss the development of a marine ra’ui (traditional marine protected area) policy, the roles of stakeholders and public consultation. Your opinions are important and welcomed.

Launch of Fisheries Campaign

Te Ki o to Tatou Moana ei Angai rai ia Tatou
(Our ocean of fish is for the sustenance & nourishment of our people)
A cross section of the community gathered at Chilli’s for the launch of this important
campaign and to view the DVD “Pacific Fisheries in Crisis” which was simultaneously
shown on Vaka Television. Whilst this Greenpeace doco was at least 5 years old it illustrated very clearly the devastation to fish stocks and to the livelihood of local fishermen in the Pacific.
Those gathered agreed to the campaign to refuse purse seine fishing in Cook Islands waters and to encourage other Pacific Island Governments to do the same, as well as controlling other methods. NB: Up against countries such as Kiribati who earn $40million p.a. in licences. A Spanish company has also given them a cargo boat. Nan Hauser said that we should be concerned about this type of fishing in the Pacific and specifically in our Whale Sanctuary. The
turtles and dolphins get caught up in purse seine nets, especially the dolphins who have a
close relationship with yellowfin tuna and in fact act as pointers to the schools of fish. Some fishermen manage to release them but often the turtles break their necks from falling
on the decks and the dolphins drown due to their sensory system being damaged from
deafening when hand grenades are thrown in the water. Offers were made to provide scientific
research to back up the campaign. TIS has linked with other individuals and groups to campaign against this form of fishing. Over 1000 supporters have now signed the facebook petition created by the Northern Group. Mark Vaikai, Chairman of the Cook Islands Fishing Association raised
his concerns at the Economic Summit. Jacqui met with Dan Sua, Director of the Forum Fisheries Agency who said “it is clear that there needs to be more awareness about what MMR is trying to do. Cook Is are a leader in the region with respect to conserving fish stocks”. Members of TIS have attended public meetings held by MMR. Together with the support of the media, adverts and further screening of documentaries, the public is now well informed about the perils of this
inappropriate fishing proposal. During the Environmental segment of the Economic Summit, a number of questions relating to the purse seine fishing were posed due to the lack of time available during the MMR session the previous day. TIS will continue to keep the pressure on the Government to relook at options available. Donations specifically for this campaign welcomed to cover the media advertising. Special thanks to Vaka Television for making their premises available for meetings and showing of the dvds to the public.

Economic Summit - Sustainable Growth?

The new Cook Island Party Government appointed an Economic Taskforce to prepare and present to the public a snapshot of how they see the future of the Cook Islands. A two day
Economic Summit 13/14 April showcased areas targeted for growth and development.
The question TIS raised several times related to the appropriateness and sustainability of
specific growth strategies. Questions asked were well presented, raising further concerns
by members of the public. Sadly question time allowed was inadequate given the interest
by the public in voicing their concerns. TIS felt that if the brief had been for example “The
sustainable future of the Cook Islands” a totally different approach would have been
created compared to the focus on "full speed ahead on economic development" . Those TIS
members who attended were impressed with the environmental concerns raised by a diverse
audience – potential new members? TIS will follow up on questions we asked and report back on amendments, if any, to the proposed plans.

IBA/KBA identification

The main area of focus by our Programme Manager, Jacqui Evans, in April was the production of the draft IBA/KBA Directory (Important Bird Areas & Key Biodiversity Areas) as part of the Birdlife International "Conservation in the Cooks: Setting Priorities, Building Capacities" project funded by the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF). It was decided at the monthly Executive Meeting to advertise for a Biodiversity Coordinator to implement the student Rarotonga Starling survey experience and coordinate the northern group seabird surveys. Several executive members have been attending meetings on TIS behalf to enable Jacqui to focus on the IBA/KBA project. The ability for members to participate on behalf of TIS gives us as an organization more visible participation and capacity building opportunities in the community at large. Jacqui presented a revamped six month detailed workplan 1 Apr-30 Sep 2011 together with budget to the Executive for approval. TIS is grateful to Birdlife International and CEPF for funding the Conservation in the Cooks project.